Construction from the ground up is an incredibly delicate and highly detailed process. While a large part of creating a structure relies on infrastructure design and aesthetic appeal, any seasoned engineer or architect will understand the importance of earthwork modeling.
For engineers, architects, and designers, the physical restrictions of the landscape can pose obstacles to overcome and challenges to be met. Determining the make and stability of the soil, and considering gradients, composition, and water flow, are all integral parts of constructing a safe and durable structure.
This is where earthwork modeling software comes into play.
Being able to create accurate renderings of the landscape not only determine architectural and design limitations, but it also relegates the amount of physical cutting and filling that will take place in the process.
The Basics of Earthwork Modeling
In short, earthworks modeling takes “into account the regrading of sites to achieve development plateaus that recognize drainage levels, subsurface structures and any contamination.”
Earthworks modeling is generally the first step for engineers and architects looking to build a structure from scratch. It not only illuminates issues that could affect the stability and safety of the building, but it also incorporates geological information, such as strata elevations, which help to develop schema for contoured surfaces and determines soil materials.
Putting the data into action allows “for calculating an optimal cut/fill balance which minimizes haul distances and material removed offsite,” as well as estimating “the quantity of surface/subsurface hard material that can be crushed to form 6F2/6F5 material that may be required for use as road/pavement areas capping, piling platforms or as structural fill.”
Earthworks modeling also aides in assessing the need for soil inversion, the burial of the non-absorbent topsoil, which reduces or eliminates the need to export soil and materials offsite.
Earthwork Modeling Calculations
The success of earthworks modeling comes down to the accuracy of the calculations used to create drawings and renderings of the landscape. With the advancements in technology and the burgeoning use of earthworks modeling software, acquiring accurate calculations has been drastically simplified.
- Earthwork Terminology
Before venturing into the different types of earthwork modeling calculations, it’s beneficial to obtain a firm understanding of the terminology used in earthwork excavation.
Used primarily in engineering projects where the end result is created via the “moving and/or processing of massive quantities of soil or unformed rock. Earthwork is done to reconfigure the topography of a site to achieve the design levels. Earthwork involves cutting and filling to achieve the required topography.”
Acquiring desired topography via exporting earth material from the work site.
Acquiring desired topography via importing earth material into the work site.
- Calculation Methods
Modern day tools including GPS, Total Station, LIDAR and Microsoft Excel have redefined how earthwork modeling volume calculations are derived. With that said, there are three main methods used for determining these calculations: the average method, the block method, and the section method.
1) Average Method
The most important aspect when using the average method is that it can only be used in tandem with cutting or filling. NBM & CW construction explains, “In this method Levels at each grid point is found out. Difference between the Average of Two Sets of Levels multiplied by Area gives the Result.”
2) Block Method
The block method allows for a middle ground between the average and the section method. While the calculations are simpler than the section method, it is oftentimes more accurate than the average method. The block method is achieved when the “volume of cutting or filling is found out for each block and added together to get the final volume.”
3) Section Method
By far, the section method provides the most accurate of results, yet requires the most advanced mathematical skill or software program.